The American Uniform

As we’ve gone over in the past, uniforms can really go a long way towards making or breaking the look of a nation’s military.  They have to embody the nation’s central values, look imposing to enemies and reassuring to friends, and be wearable, day-to-day, during the rigorous tasks required of a member of the military.  No small order!

There are remarkably effective examples of uniforms throughout history, from the regal authority of the modern British uniform, to the “people’s” uniformity of the old Soviet duty uniforms, to the ultra Imperialism perfectly embodied by the German Imperial uniforms of the Victorian Era, to the charming old-fashioned frontierism of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform.

Modern uniforms tend to come in three varieties.  There’s the “Combat Uniform,” which is the camouflage patterned fatigues you’re used to seeing in the movies, mostly on enlisted infantry, though in reality, everyone wears them.  They’re used for day-to-day duty and combat, and are usually in a camouflage pattern, which are specifically designed for specific combat roles by the military in question.  They’re roughly equivalent to business casual in an office.

The second type are the Service or Service Dress Uniforms, the uniforms people mentally associate with officers, but that are actually worn by everyone when appropriate.  They are roughly equivalent to a standard business suit, and are worn for semi-formal functions, like serving on a court-martial, when reporting for duty, or when making official visits.

And finally, the third kind of uniforms are the Mess Dress or Dress Uniforms.  Equivalent to a tuxedo, these are worn at formal functions, and are extremely ornate, covered with every medal, ribbon, rank, and insignia the wearer has earned.

So, how is the United States doing right now with its uniforms?  That’s a difficult question to answer, since the U.S. has gone through so many uniform variations over the years that some of the older variants look like they’re from another country, maybe another planet!  What’s more, the Uniform Code can be so complex, one is forced to ask, “which uniform?” far too often in any total examination.  Instead, take a look at this gallery of the current uniforms of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and judge for yourself.  Our personal favorites are the Marine Officer Dress and Navy Dress Whites.  It’s next to impossible to not look impressive in those!

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Starfleet Fashions: Semper Exploro!

Today, we are going where no fashion blog has gone before: directly into nerdiness.  We’ve talked about future fashion in science fiction once before, but that was a look at overall fashion senses in different visions of the future.  This time, we want to take a look at one fashion future in particular, and the timing of this blog should give you a hint…

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Yep, “Star Trek” fashion.  But not just any “Star Trek” fashion…  The Original Series was packed full of insane visions of future fashions for civilians, especially some amazingly crazy, but often incredibly sexy, women’s clothes.  But we’re interested in SUITS, something you don’t see much of in “Star Trek.”  And after the Original Series, fashion takes a decided backseat.  But one thing that always showed up, and changed a ridiculous amount of times, were the venerable Starfleet uniforms.

"Semper exploro" should maybe be "semper mutans vestem" in this case...

“Semper exploro” should maybe be “semper mutans vestem” in this case…

The Federation Starfleet goes through more changes of clothes than Carrie Bradshaw does in “Sex and the City.”  We could go on forever about all the variations in uniforms, but let’s take a look at the main highlights across the nearly 50-year franchise…

2135 – Late 2100s

Jumpsuits, jumpsuits, jumpsuits.  And zippers galore.  When “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001-2005) came on the air in 2001 as a prequel, the producers wanted a “Right Stuff” feel for the early pre-Federation Starfleet, so to NASA fatigues they went.  There were some clever uses of Windsor-knot ties in the Admiral uniforms, and these have the distinction of being the only “Star Trek” uniforms with pockets, absurdly enough!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform

Flag Officer uniform

Dress uniform

Dress uniform

Early 2200s – 2240s

We love these.  They were deliberately designed for the prologue of the film “Star Trek” (2009) as an homage to the space uniforms of ’50s and early ’60s sci-fi, like “Forbidden Planet.”  The belt is a great touch.  But you’d better be in shape to wear one of these, judging by how form-fitting they are!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

2240s – 2265

Oh, dear…  Bland colors, really obtuse zippers on the side of the neck, and very cheap-looking fabrics.  These early uniforms, made for the two “Star Trek” pilots in 1964 and 1965, were the bad side of that retro sci-fi look we liked.

Duty uniforms, Command Divison

Duty uniforms, Command Division

2265-2270

Now we’re talking…  Velour?  Check.  Bright, primary colors?  Check?  Bell-bottom pants?  check.  Insanely short skirts on the female uniform?  Check, and kind of ridiculous, but what the heck.  These are the classics, the uniforms from the Original Series (1966-1969) and the Animated Series (1972-1973).  Do they look a little like pajamas?  Sure.  But they’re functional, simple, get across rank, Division and assignment in an incredibly elegant, simple fashion (gold for Command, blue for Sciences, red for Operations, with a modified version of the U.S. Naval rank stripes on the sleeves, and different emblem shapes for assignments).  And how can you not love the high, black leather boots?

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO's "wraparound" uniform

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO’s “wraparound” uniform

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

2270-2278

Oh, no…  The dreaded “penguin grays.”  Sometime in the 1970s, everyone somehow forgot how colorful the Original Series was, and came up with these abominations for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979).  Bland, drab pastel colors, and that bizarre belt buckle (supposedly a “life support monitor,” for some reason)…  And SPANDEX EVERYWHERE.  Stephen Collins, who played Captain Willard Decker in the film, once said of these things that…  Well…  Let’s just say that sitting was a painful proposition for the male actors.  We like the Admiral uniform, though, and they get points for sheer variety of uniform types.

Duty uniforms

Duty uniforms

Flag officer uniform

Flag officer uniform

2278-2350

Our favorite of the bunch, these maroon, Teutonic beauties were made for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), in order to grab a hold of the color of the Original Series, as well as bring a certain “Horatio Hornblower” naval flair to the franchise.  These were easily the most well thought-out uniforms, with a detailed series of rank insignia, service pins, a huge array of Division colors (seen in the collar and insignia straps), special away team jackets, and separate designs for enlisted crew, medical staff, engineering staff, and more.  This was the first time in the franchise that Starfleet actually felt like a real, breathing military organization.  So popular were these, they were used again in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989), “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), and the prologue of “Star Trek: Generations” (1994).  They also showed up in flashbacks throughout the series set in the late 24th century, featuring an alteration of the undershirt from a turtleneck to a crewneck somewhere around 2325.  Heck, they’re so good, even in the fictional “Star Trek” universe, they were in service for an insane 72 years!

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground), multiple divisions

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground, note the gold striping), multiple divisions

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Divison

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisons

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisions

2350-2365

You’d think they would have learned their lesson from the 1979 model…  Made for “Star Trek: the Next Generation” (1987-1994), they went back to the spandex, complete with an ugly zipper line in the front.  We like hiding the Starfleet emblem in the color pattern of the uniform, and the return to a three-color division system.  But otherwise, ugh.  And according to Patrick Stewart, they were murder on backs since they compressed everyone into them!  Don’t even get us started on the cheerleader-like “skant” uniform…

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

"Skant" variant uniforms, all divisions

“Skant” variant uniforms, all divisions

2365-2373

An improvement, to be sure!  This was an effort to take the earlier TNG uniforms, and make them look like actual uniforms, as well as make them a lot more comfortable to wear for the actors.  The male uniforms switched to wool, and the zipper was moved to the back.  No longer form-fitting, and with a rank collar, these were much more dignified.  The “casual” jumpsuit variant, on the other hand, introduced for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999), and also used in “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001), is dull, dull, dull.  These things had stirrups slung under the boots to keep them taut, leading “Voyager” actor Robert Beltran to remark, “they just make you sag…”  Not a good idea.

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

2373-2390s

Still jumpsuit-like, but far more staid and uniform-like.  We approve.  The grey shoulders look good, as does the ribbed fabric.  Created for “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), and also used in “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998), “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), and the later seasons of DS9, there’s not much to say on this one, except that we love the Admiral uniform’s Federation Seal belt buckle.

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Alternate 2250s and 2260s

Made for the new “Star Trek” (2009) movie and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), these are straight-up an updated version of the classic Original Series uniforms for the “Alternate Reality” the new movies take place in.  The fabrics look very high-quality and comfortable, and the inclusion of the Starfleet emblem in the fabric is a very nice touch.  Wonderfully retro and futuristic at the same time.  And the dress uniforms are great, straight out of a 23rd century West Point!

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Flight jumpers

Flight jumpers

Dress uniforms

Dress uniforms

There’s more than these, of course, from the infamous evil “Mirror Universe” uniforms (bared midriffs galore), to uniforms from alternate realities and possible futures, but we’ve gone on long enough!  We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the fantastical, because next time we’re coming back to Earth.  See you then!

Revenge of the English Shooting Jacket

Here’s something that you may be surprised to see us talking about.  Although, anyone familiar with this blog over the past two years wouldn’t be at all surprised to see us talking about this after we spent multiple pages discussing the history of golf clothes!  Today, we want to talk about that stalwart of the Anglosphere, the English shooting jacket, or coat, if you prefer.

"I'll call it what I want."

“I’ll call it what I want.”

We’ve gone over the history of suits and some of their variations in the past. What’s relevant here is that by the 1800s, the modern “suit” had reached a point where you can easily trace all of the modern variations from it.  Its basic lines were very similar to the lines of today.  But, hilariously, the most common variations of suit jackets, the sport coats, have their origins in English military and hunting culture.  The blazer goes back to the H.M.S. Blazer, and its crew’s attempt in 1837 to impress Queen Victoria, who would be making a surprise visit, on the fly, resulting in a modified uniform that eventually became the blazer.  Meanwhile, the hacking jacket and shooting jackets, slightly more formal in lines than the blazer, birthed the basic sport coat that we think of now.  But, in England especially, the hacking jacket, made of wool or tweed with a single vent for horseback riding, and the shooting jacket, typified by a leather patch on the front shoulder to prevent wear from the butt of a weapon, and also made of wool or tweed, never completely gave way to the modern sport coat, and are still worn to hunt and ride.

241px-1901_Sartorial_Arts_Journal_Fashion_Plate_Men's_Norfolk_Jacket

Norfolk stylin’.

The shooting jacket started life as the Norfolk jacket, a belted, single-breasted jacket with box pleats and a belt.  It was designed specifically so that it would not bind when the elbow was raised by the wearer to fire their weapon, and became popular during the 1860s in the Prince of Wales’ personal circle of hunting pals, eventually spreading to the general populace, as these things often do.  Its basic lines can still be found in military and police uniforms around the world, but it’s rarely seen as a shooting jacket in its own right anymore.

shooteruplandih0Over time, the shooting jacket evolved into what we see today: a jacket similar in lines to other sport coats, but made with a shoulder patch to absorb weapon recoil, and made of stronger materials to withstand rain, burrs and shotgun scorching.  The materials chosen, wool and tweed, are for just that, to withstand the elements.  The lines are what we would, in the present, consider “formal,” because that was the fashion of the Victorian Era that birthed it: formality in all occasions, even the informal.  It is, in many ways, simply a more utilitarian suit jacket.  Larger buttons on the pockets are there to keep them closed, even while running at a clip, so that items won’t fall out, the elbows are fitted for the wearer to allow for easy raising of the arms to aim and shoot, without disrupting the wear of the jacket, et cetera.

While style didn’t truly enter into the equation when they first came into being, now, shooting jackets are a style statement in their own right.  Modern hunters frequently wear clothes designed purely for function, that are sometimes beyond unattractive…

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So, some people, including in the US, where the shooting jacket never truly caught on, are going back to the wool and tweed jackets of yore, to hunt in style.

To that end, we’ve jumped into the fray, making our own English shooting jacket for the express purpose of having it auctioned off at a Naples, FL wine festival.  Made of a thick wool tweed with intricate detailing throughout, with upper shoulder and chest patches for resting the gun, and to receive the recoil of a long arm.  The elbow patches are a stylish touch, and also for durability when shooting.  There’s extra tension in the elbow region when positioning oneself to shoot, an inverted pleat down the back, patch pocketing, and a half-belt along the back waist, all adding to the unique look and style of the jacket.  We’re really proud of this one, so take a look at it below!  Hopefully, our minor contribution can help these lovely jackets get a new foothold in the hearts of hunters and shooters in the US.